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Why do otherwise "technical" people not understand computers?


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DKTaber   (Don) DKTaber is offline
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18-Aug-2012, 01:53 PM #1
Why do otherwise "technical" people not understand computers?
Because I understand how computers and software work (am self-taught and had my first computer in 1984), I've become one of the unfortunate people who have, over time, come to be the "tech support" for my family and a lot of friends. I have observed something about some of these friends that confounds me: They are technically trained -- chemical, mechanical, electrical engineers -- but cannot grasp the concepts or the workings involved with a computer. They have great difficulty installing and then configuring the preferences for any software. I get calls like "How can I attach a file to an e-mail?" When I try to show them how to do something, they want to write down every keystroke, put it on a post-it and stick it to their monitor so they can do it the next time. Their monitor frames are lined end-to-end with post-its. IOW, they must follow keystroke-by-keystroke instructions every time instead of grasping the concept of what they're doing.

Why does a person who understands entropy and enthalpy, or how to build a bridge or chemical plant, not understand a computer beyond how to turn it on?
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18-Aug-2012, 02:09 PM #2
The answer is that, primarily, we live in an extremely complex society, and that because of that no person can know everything. The computer wiz that can install software and configure it at the blink of an eye could be completely helpless with it comes to changing a flat or the oil on the family car. It is the same reason when you have a sore throat you would to to an ENT, not a podiatrist. Need the shingles replaced on your roof? Don't call a plumber. Look at all the wonderful helpers here. One can clean the nastiest virus out of your system but another is necessary to help you with that networking problem. It was some 400 years ago that scientists stopped generalizing and began to specialize. No human mind can have a professional grasp of all the workings of our modern technology.
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DKTaber   (Don) DKTaber is offline
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18-Aug-2012, 03:05 PM #3
I'm aware that not everybody can know everything, not even Jeopardy champions! But knowledge of how computers and software work is "technical". E.g., a person who has a "technical" persona by virtue of graduating cum laude in Ch.E. and, at the age of 68, is teaching chemical engineering, has used computers all his life and even at one time programmed in Fortran (an actual case) . . . but hasn't a clue how to do anything on a computer. The first computer he brought me was a 10-year old HP laptop on which he had not put NO AV and NO AS. I removed ~1200 trojans, viruses and (mostly) tracking cookies from it. Why didn't he put AV and AS programs on it? Didn't know how.

I'm technical myself (degree in Chemistry) and worked in chemical research for 6 years before moving to the management side. The thing that caused me to learn what I have about computers is simple curiosity. I tried things; "Oh, what's this? What does it do if I click 'go'"? I roamed thru Explorer to see how the system organized files and folders.

People with technical backgrounds are usually curious. Why does that trait take a hiatus when they sit down in front of a computer?

Last edited by DKTaber; 18-Aug-2012 at 03:49 PM..
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18-Aug-2012, 03:36 PM #4
IMO, their IQ is not high in that particular area. Even though they may be a genius in other areas.
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